I have had the honor of solemnizing over 150 weddings during my 35+ years in ministry. Some of those relationships turned out better than others. But, I will never forget one in particular! The prospective groom and bride looked like 'Ken and Barbie.' (if you are too young to relate to that analogy, ask an older couple you know and they'll explain it to you!) It seemed like a match made in heaven. He was handsome. She was beautiful. They both were well-educated. They both had great jobs. They answered all of my premarital counseling questions flawlessly. The wedding was an amazing celebration for their families. They paid well! It couldn't have been a more magical event if Disney had been involved. So, imagine my shock when 6 months later they were seated in my office, crying their eyes out, absolutely miserable, wondering how their marriage could last another day?! Marriage isn't as easy as some couples make it look. Healthy relationships require a great deal of hard work! They certainly can be, quite complicated. It takes a supernatural energy to experience the fullness of joy God desires for us to live in.
In chapter one we focused on how God made the way for us to cross back into the community of the Trinity (the presence of God - the only place where truly healthy and satisfying relationships can be developed and enjoyed) through the cross of Christ - God's 'love bridge.' In this chapter we focus on the resurrection of Jesus and the power of God to build the healthy, satisfying relationships we all crave. The resurrection of Jesus is, at its heart, all about hope and relational restoration. So, let's check out Luke 24:1-8.
"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' Then they remembered his words."
The three days between the death of Jesus and his resurrection found his disciples living in the heartache of a broken relationship.
Three women, who knew and loved and followed Jesus (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James - vs.10), went faithfully to carry out their errand of giving his body a second treatment in their embalming practice. I imagine their hearts were heavy at the thought of seeing the dead body of the one they longed to have back with them! According the John 20:19 the male disciples were in hiding. They still ached over their loss and feared what the future held for them.
We have been in that place of grief/pain, haven't we? Someone we dearly loved died. Divorce crashed our marriage party as we never thought it would. Or we were abandoned by someone we never suspected would leave us. When my father was two years old his dad left him, his older brother (4) and their mother for another woman. That was during the years of the great depression. That must have been an agonizing and fearful experience. He never spoke to me about it. When I was about eleven his estranged father called him one night in an effort to reconcile. Dad refused. He wanted nothing to do with the man who had rejected his family years earlier. As a curious child I didn't get it. I wanted to meet the grandfather I had never known. But I think I understand better today. Sometimes severed relationships leave us broken, wounded and in pain.
It's at a time like that one wonders, 'Can love/hope live again?' It often doesn't feel like it. When the women went back and told the disciples what they had seen and what had been told them (about Jesus' resurrection) the disciples scoffed. (Luke 24:9-12) "But they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense." (vs.11) Peter ran to check out the tomb and, indeed, found it empty. But he didn't know what to make of the scene. Even when Jesus appeared to them later (Luke 24:36-43) 'they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.' (vs.37) "....he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it...." (vs.41) Have you ever been so afraid and discouraged that you wouldn't even believe what was right in front of your eyes?! Can you imagine God restoring feelings....or a relationship that you long ago gave up for dead? Many today feel like they can't.
Our only hope is to lean into the power of the resurrection. Do you believe God can raise the dead to life? The Bible clearly teaches that he raised Jesus back to life from the grave. Do you believe it? I hold to the Genesis 1:1 principle of Biblical interpretation. That verse tells us, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." There was nothing there and God spoke it all into existence. If he could do that, then there is nothing described in the rest of the Bible that is beyond belief! The one, true God holds the power of life and death. He gave previews throughout the Bible of what he would do following the crucifixion of Jesus. In 2 Kings 4:32-37 God enabled the prophet Elisha to raise the Shunammite's son back to life. In Luke 7:14, 15 Jesus raised the widow of Nain's son from his bier as he was being carried out for burial. In Luke 8:54-56 Jesus raised the young daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader, from death. In John 11:43, 44 Jesus called the body of Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead four days! As the prophet Jeremiah prayed, "Ah, Sovereign LORD,....Nothing is too hard for you!" (Jeremiah 32:17) Do you believe God raised Jesus back to life?
The God who raises the dead can restore your relationship. The marriage that feels empty can be full of joy. Your broken parental heart can be mended. Your lost friendship can be found and brought to life. Your church can be a warm and intimate spiritual family. God can do all this and more (Ephesians 3:20, 21!) if we'll let him.
The couple I described at the beginning of this chapter wept and ached. But then they reaffirmed their marriage vows. They committed to counseling. They did the hard work of building a healthy and satisfying relationship. They leaned into the power of the resurrection of Jesus. And today they are happy together. They walk faithfully with the God who didn't give up on them. They have a beautiful family. Daily they see their relationship restored and developed. Why don't you join them?!
(Just as a note - my wife, Joni Willison Wood, and I do marriage counseling - remotely or in person. If we can pray with you or help you in any way, please let us know!)
can pray with you or help you in any way, please let us know!)